Planet Earth

Oxytocin: the hype hormone

Not Exactly Rocket ScienceBy Ed YongJul 16, 2012 1:09 PM

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The Guardian has run a woeful ad interview about oxytocin, featuring Paul Zak who has a book to sell about the topic. This follows on from their woeful ad interview about oxytocin last August, featuring Paul Zak who has a book to sell about the topic. (In the middle, there was a decent piece by Gareth Leng, who does not have a book to sell about the topic - a momentary lapse, I'm sure.) You may have heard of oxytocin as the “moral molecule” or the “hug hormone” or the “cuddle chemical”. Unleashed by hugs, available in a handy nasal spray, and possessed with the ability to boost trust, empathy and a laundry list of virtues, it is apparently the cure to all the world’s social ills. Except it’s not. As per usual, it’s a little more complicated than that. I had a bit of a rant about oxytocin hype this morning on Twitter, which Rachel Feltman kindly collected into a Storify. It’s below, or you can search for the hashtag #schmoxytocin. Alternatively, a link to the actual page on Storify. Also, here’s a link to my New Scientist feature about oxytocin (PDF) where I talk about why it’s much more than a simple “hug hormone” and why hype about oxytocins has the potential to do some real damage to vulnerable people. [View the story "#Schmoxytocin with Ed Yong " on Storify]

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